Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group paramilitary organization, allegedly paid dozens of people to attend the funeral of one of his mercenary company’s soldiers last weekend.
Between 1,500 rubles ($21) and 2,500 rubles ($35) were given to the 50 people who came to witness the Saturday funeral of Wagner Group member Dmitry Menshikov at St. Petersburg’s Beloostrovsky cemetery, one of the participants claimed.
Menshikov, of Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region, was killed in Ukraine last month, Sever.Realii, which is part of the United States government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty media organization, reported.
He was hit with a bullet and bled out after destroying a machine gun crew with a grenade launcher, Prigozhin, who also attended the funeral, claimed.
Around 400 people were supposed to go to Menshikov’s funeral, but the plan did not proceed.
Among those who attended the event were members of a Russian non-profit for veterans called the Boyevoye bratstvo, or Brotherhood of War in English, as well as representatives from the youth organization of the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.
More than 15 of the attendees reportedly admitted that they did not personally know Menshikov.
“The majority had no idea about the personality of [the deceased],” the aforementioned participant, a native of St. Petersburg, told the Telegram channel Mozhem Obyasnit.
Menshikov was serving time for a drug-selling conviction in a penal colony in Russia’s western Ryazan province when he joined the Wagner Group, St. Petersburg-based news outlet Fontanka reported.
He was awarded the Medal For Courage, also known as the Medal For Valor, which is given to soldiers “for personal courage and bravery.”
Prigozhin had demanded that Menshikov’s body be buried in the Beloostrovsky cemetery’s Alley of Glory.
However, St. Petersburg officials refused because they claimed Wagner Group mercenaries were not servicemen. Additionally, the officials pointed out that there was no such thing as an Alley of Glory in the cemetery in the first place.
St. Petersburg ended up opening an Alley of Courage after Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, wrote an open letter to Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, and Putin’s former aide.
The section is intended to be the burial place of servicemen and combatants who are killed in action in Ukraine.